A 55-year-old Australian man has been left with a one inch (2.5 cm) hole in his head, after using black salve to treat a suspected skin cancer. The hole, on the man’s right temple, developed as a result of using the “alternative treatment” ointment as a topical skin cancer treatment for 4 months.
The man reported to hospital, saying he was using strong narcotic painkillers to deal with the pain of the ointment-induced lesion. While doctors initially thought they would have to operate, the man was sent home with wound-care instructions and after 3 months, the hole healed.
Use of black salve as a cancer treatment has been a popular form of cancer self-treatment for more than 100 years. However, there is no scientific evidence to support its efficacy and black salve is viewed by the medical community as a “fake cancer cure” that can do more harm than good.
What is black salve?
Black salve is an “alternative medicine”, typically applied to skin lesions, moles, scars and skin cancer, where it destroys the skin cells, leaving behind a black scar that falls off. The salve is considered a “drawing treatment”, drawing out the cancerous cells or tumours. Extended use, however, can create a lesion.
Black salve contains sanguinarine, a compound found in the bloodroot plant. This compound is often mixed with zinc chloride to create a corrosive mixture for treating skin cancer and other types of skin conditions.
This deforming self treatment is viewed as a risk by medical authorities and as a “quack” treatment to treat skin cancer.
As a topical corrosive, black salve affects both normal cells and cancer cells. However, the corrosive nature of the salve is not considered by medical authorities as effective in treating cancer or other skin conditions as more proven treatments, such as surgical excision.
As a herbal remedy black salves have been used to treat cancer, particularly skin cancers, for decades, but the scientific literature does not support their use as a treatment of skin cancer.
Alternative medicine practitioners tout black salve treatment over more conventional treatment, but black salve should not be used in an attempt to cure cancer, especially not as a primary treatment. While the corrosive black salve ointment damages cancer cells, it also affects healthy skin and does not guarantee a halt in disease progression.
While it is believed by users to only affect cancerous cells, black salve also affects normal tissue. The caustic and destructive material destroys all skin tissue, including cancer cells and other skin conditions, but also affects healthy tissue, resulting in lesions that may need surgery to correct.
What to do instead
Using black salve can have serious consequences.
There are many reports of corrosion and serious scarring on normal skin, making black salve a dangerous option for self treatment. The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has even listed black salve as a “fake cancer treatment” and the organisation has also tried to get black salve banned in the country. In Australia, the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) has condemned the use of black salves to treat cancer, though they remain legal and accessible.
Use of black salve should not be considered as a treatment for any skin condition, especially not skin cancer. A suspected melanoma should always be examined by a medical professional as, if left untreated, cancer can develop and spread throughout the body as a metastatic disease.
The safest option is to get any change in your skin checked as soon as you notice it as melanoma and non-melanoma skin cancer can present in a variety of ways.
If you notice a change in your skin, call the medical professionals at SunDoctors today. Only regular check ups can identify skin cancer early and stop potential skin cancer spread. Referrals not needed, book your appointment online at sundoctors.com.au. Early detection, saves lifes.
Don’t rely on alternative therapies that can cause more harm than good!